June 2010: Christian Conference of Asia
What struck Uniting Church President Alistair Macrae most about the Christian Conference of Asia’s 13th General Assembly — apart from the salutary experience of being part of a small Anglo minority in a church conference — were the issues that dominated the agenda.
“Australian church agendas are usually full of finance and property challenges, angst about identity and mission, restructuring and strategic plans. The CCA’s attention was largely focused on issues like peace between different religious communities, how churches can respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis, refugees, sex slavery, the plight of indigenous communities, nuclear proliferation and climate change.”
Another Australian participant, Svenja von Dietze found that the biggest divide between Australia and many of the other CCA member countries was that “we are comparatively very fortunate: we don’t have to cope with widespread poverty or a paramilitary government; we don’t fear to walk on the streets of our cities; and we are healthy and well-off, thanks to an excellent medical and educational system.”
The Assembly, which met in Kuala Lumpur in April, was grounded in worship, Bible study, testimonies, public lectures and listening carefully to the stories of those who were at the margins of privilege and power in society.
Participants were led to identify some of the places where they were “called to participate in God’s mission through prophetic witness, supporting reconciliation and participating in healing”. They held before them the faithfulness of God in response to the needs of the world “and the cry of the whole creation that waits in suffering and hope for the day when the reign of God will come in all its fullness”.
The Assembly’s statement on public issues addressed intolerance against religious minorities, war and the seeking of peace, people who are vulnerable, marginalised and persecuted through the experience of trafficking, HIV and AIDS, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and other human rights abuses, people movement and migration, Creation and climate change, and disempowerment and disorientation due to societal, structural and technological change.
“We have so much to learn,” said Mr Macrae, “from our sisters and brothers in Asia about how the gospel helps us address the great challenges facing the world community today.”
The Most Rev. Roger Herft, Anglican Archbishop of Perth, said, “The fledgling churches and Christians in Asia call out to us to partner them, pray and learn from them what it means to bear costly witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that includes great suffering, persecution, ridicule, imprisonment and death.
“May we not fail them in their desire and ours to be called to prophesy, reconcile and heal and to be the good news of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ in one of the most populous, diverse and divided regions of our world.”
Ms von Dietze came away from the Assembly “inspired to make a difference both in Australia and Asia”.
We hope you come away from this issue of Insights similarly inspired.